June 15, 2020 / 3:24 PM / a month ago

Portugal-Britain tourism 'air bridge' talks going well, says PM Costa

LISBON (Reuters) - Negotiations between Portugal and Britain on an “air bridge” that would allow British tourists to dodge a mandatory COVID-19 quarantine upon returning home are still in progress and going well, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: Portugal's Primer Minister Antonio Costa speaks during a news conference on coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at Ajuda palace in Lisbon, Portugal March 18, 2020. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

Portugal’s tourism-dependent economy has been hard hit by the pandemic and lockdowns at home and abroad, and authorities are trying to save at least part of the crucial summer season.

Britain, its leading source of tourism, introduced a 14-day self-isolation rule for travellers arriving from abroad on June 8, including returning nationals.

“Talks are going well,” Costa told a news conference with foreign media, adding that Britons travelling to Portugal should feel safe. “We are working towards an agreement and will wait for it to happen.”

Portugal has been hailed as a success story in its fight against the virus, but localised outbreaks in and around Lisbon have kept cases at a worrying plateau in their hundreds per day for the past month.

In 2019, more than 16 million foreign tourists visited Portugal, almost 20% of them from Britain.

The tourism sector accounts for nearly 15% of Portugal’s gross domestic product and was one of the main drivers of its recovery from the 2010-14 economic and debt crisis.

Costa also said on Monday the European Commission’s recovery plan, worth 750 billion euros ($845 billion), was robust and balanced enough to help tackle the impact of the crisis.

“Our opinion is the Commission’s proposal is timely and smart,” he said.

The plan aims to help economically weaker countries hit worst by the coronavirus to recover at a more equal pace with the stronger ones, preserving the unity of the European Union’s single market.

Reporting by Catarina Demony, Sergio Goncalves; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Andrew Cawthorne

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